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Breastfeeding is Still Good, But New Research Claims Some Benefits May Be Overstated


There’s no question it’s good, but some benefits may be overstated

No one is calling into question the fact that breastfeeding is eminently healthy for mother and baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life because it is “an unequaled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.”

However, one of the traditional arguments in support of breastfeeding has been that it helps reduce the rate of childhood obesity, and a new study released in The Journal of the American Medical Association (via The New York Times) found that claiming breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity “may be going too far.”

A randomized trial conducted between 1996 and 1997 with 13,000 breastfeeding moms at maternity hospitals in Belarus looked at women who followed a breastfeeding program recommended by the WHO and others who received “usual care” instead.

The children in the trial were followed through age 11, and while those breastfed for longer periods of time actually had a higher body mass index or percentage of body fat, the differences were said to be statistically insignificant.

The study concluded that “breastfeeding has many advantages but population strategies to increase the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding are unlikely to curb the obesity epidemic.”

Photo credit: iStock

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